Captain Fantastic


Director: Matt Ross.
Screenplay: Matt Ross.
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, George McKay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Crooks, Charlie Shotwell, Frank Langella, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Ann Dowd, Trin Miller, Elijah Stevenson, Teddy Van Ee, Erin Moriarty, Missi Pyle.

“We have to do what we’re told. Some fights you can’t win. The powerful control the lives of the powerless. That’s the way the world works. It’s unjust and it’s unfair but that’s just too bad. We have to shut up and accept it! Well… fuck that!”

In a year vastly consisting of the superhero (take your pick), the sequel (Independence Day: Resurgence), the reboot (Ghostbusters) and the disappointing (Hail, Caeser!), 2016 was beginning to have a very underwhelming vibe and a lack of originality. Leave it then to the indie circuit to take a firm hold of the fading year and offer the best film so far. It’s with absolute conviction that I can say, actor turned director, Matt Ross has finally delivered a film that satisfies and resonates. Admittedly, there has been the occasional delight in 2016 but none more delightful than Captain Fantastic. 


Plot: Distant from the constructs of societal pressures, Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) dedicates his life to teaching his six children how to become well-rounded and intelligent individuals while living in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. However, when a family tragedy strikes, Ben and his brood are forced to leave their self-sustainable home and experience the outside world which brings forth new experiences and challenges for the reclusive family.


It’s often said that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but in the case of Captain Fantastic I had already done so. Last year, I came across a still from the film and the photo spoke volumes to me. After hearing some positive word-of-mouth, I had an underlying feeling that this was a film I would really enjoy. A film that looked like it had something to say. I awaited its arrival with great anticipation and I can now confirm that it was absolutely worth the wait.


It’s not unlike Wes Anderson’s work in its look and its approach. It shares similarities with the dysfunctional family of The Royal Tenenbaums or the cross-country, brotherly relations of The Darjeeling Limited. It’s as vibrant in its colourful pallet and as deep in its characterisation and commentary on achieving a meaningful existence.

It’s no surprise to hear that this is a biographical account of director Matt Ross’ own experiences. It feels genuine and his affection and understanding of the characters, and their moral standpoint, shines through.



There’s a political edge and intelligence to the film. The unorthodox family live their lives by the philosophy of Plato’s The Republic and have regular discourses on dialectical materialism. Mortensen’s Ben talks with his oldest son Bo (George McKay) about whether he’s expressing Marxist or Trotskyist views and instructs his other children in the works of Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. They embrace Buddhism as a philosophy and reject any form of organised religion. At one point they even question why they should celebrate Christmas, preferring instead to celebrate ‘Noam Chomsky Day’ where each child receives a gift on the birthday of the intellectual historian and political activist.

Needles to say that this is a family who reject capitalism and the consumerist construct that it has birthed. They prefer their off-grid, nonconformist living and struggle to adapt to society when they are finally forced to confront it.


What’s interesting, though, is that Ross doesn’t play this entirely one sided. He does actually question Ben’s motivation and his responsibilities as a parent. He pairs him with a very different patriarch in Frank Langella’s wealthy, capitalist father-in-law who obviously doesn’t approve of Ben’s freedom of expression or alternative parental views.

The theme of the film is about striking a balance in life and that’s exactly what Ross achieves in the structure of his film; it’s about the intellectual and the cultural, awareness and ignorance and he manages to bring an emotional sensitivity to the proceedings without being overly sentimental.


As mentioned it has a distinct Wes Anderson flavour but it’s also a reminder of the same misfits of Little Miss Sunshine. Where that film created its characters to be dysfunctionally comedic, Captain Fantastic‘s feel more authentic and three-dimensional.

Spearheading them is an absolutely outstanding Viggo Mortensen. There’s a subtlety and depth to his performance and he captures the nuisances of being a strong-minded and arrogant individual while also affording a tender and loving fatherly figure to shine through. It’s not flashy and there’s no grandstanding involved. Mortensen’s too wise and too good an actor to even have to do that and it’s in his subtlety that he allows the space for his young co-stars to have their moment too. It’s a confident but very unselfish performance that anchors the entire film.


A poignant social commentary that benefits greatly from all its little quirks and attention to detail that capture the essence of life itself. It’s funny, heartbreaking and uplifting all in equal measure and (like Mortensen’s sublime lead performance) Matt Ross delivers it with both hard truths and a loving affection. A beautiful film.

Mark Walker

Trivia: Viggo Mortensen’s red-patterned shirt that he’s wearing in the wedding scene is the same shirt he wore in Sean Penn’s directorial debut, The Indian Runner in 1991. A film based on the Bruce Springsteen song Highway Patrolman.

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50 Responses to “Captain Fantastic”

  1. Good to see Viggo again and I’m not surprised to hear he nails his performance. The guy is so good and I wish he had more projects. Looking forward to finally catching up with this. Your enthusiasm has peaked my excitement.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m a huge Viggo fan too, Keith. The guy has never delivered a bad performance and in Captain Fantastic, he’s superb again. It’s a very subtle performance but all the more powerful for it. I loved this flick. As it stands, it’s my favourite film of the year so far.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. HOORAY!! I gave this full score too Mark. What a movie eh? And Viggo is just so good. I want that suit!! I like what you said about Viggo, doesn’t show off or anything and lets the younger actors shine, which they do! My dad and I loved this one, it was my favourite until I saw The Neon Demon

    Liked by 1 person

    • My apologies for such a late reply, man! If truth be told, not long after seeing this film, I ended up in similar scenario as Viggo’s character. My missus ended up in critical health condition and was in a coma for 2weeks. I felt like I was going through what Viggo was and having to explain things to my kids. Thankfully, things worked out in the end but it was scarily close to this film. It makes me love it all the more.

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      • Shit man, that’s heavy. Glad to hear it all worked out. I really need to buy this one

        Liked by 1 person

      • Heavy, indeed brother! Very heavy! But it’s over now and i’d like to revisit Captain Fantastic now! I reckon its impact will have even more power for me.!

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      • OH it totally will man. I need to revisit it too, Viggo was so good… AND THAT SUIT!!!! God I want one of those 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • There’s not many that can pull that suit off but Viggo makes it look cool, man. Gotta love the Viggo. I see he got a nomination for the Golden Globes? Here’s hoping a little Oscar nom follows.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I don’t care about awards really but he certainly deserves it! And fuck yeah man, he ROCKED that suit!! Viggo is my man-crush ;P

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t give much credence to awards either but it’s nice to see some recognition.

        You seen The Indian Runner yet? Sean Penn’s directorial debut? An early, outstanding performance from Viggo. Very intense.

        In fact, the shirt he wears in Captain Fantastic is the same shirt he wore in The Indian Runner. He must have kept it all these years.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wow no I haven’t seen that film. I must get onto that!! I need to go through and watch his older stuff, I’ve only seen him in recent stuff like this, Far From Men and Jauja, the latter of which i really, reeeeally liked

        Liked by 1 person

      • He’s done some great stuff. His cameo in Carlito’s Way is also great. I haven’t seen those two you mention but I recently got a copy of Far From Men. I really like the look of that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah Far From Men is really good. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis did the soundtrack too 😉

        btw did you catch my post about the Nick Cave doco?? Its bloody amazing man, if you feel so inclined, have a look and if you do, –definitely– listen to the songs, they are filled with sooooo much sadness and grief, it is haunting

        http://wp.me/p4P9IW-1io

        Check out Jauja (Juaja?) too if you can. I wrote about that too but I won’t bombard you with links. It is a very, very unique movie that only a big name like Viggo would do, as it the definition of an indie art film.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Far From Men became my Xmas evening watch. I loved it. A beautifully shot and paced film. Viggo was great as always.

        Gotta love some Nick Cave too. I’ll swing by on that and now attempt to hunt down Juaja as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Awesome, glad you liked it man! Would be very interested to hear what you think of Juaja, its….. different. Like a psychedelic western or something haha. Full on art-movie, complete with 4:3 picture that cuts off at the corners like an old photo. Interesting stuff, and Viggo is just freaking awesome. Forget what language its in hahaha, he knows so many

        Liked by 1 person

      • You make Juaja sound even more appealing, man. Can’t wait to get my hands on it now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Again, would love to hear what you think since you are a big Viggo fan like me. And our tastes usually align pretty well

        Liked by 1 person

      • Our tastes normally go hand in hand. I’m really looking forward to catching Juaja. You can never have enough Viggo.

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      • Hells yeah, I see Viggo in anything and I’m interested. Not counting all the LOTR crap…. or whatever franchise it was that he was with.

        You know what I’d really like to see? Viggo with Cronenberg again. Eastern Promises is so good! I wonder what ol’ Cronie is up to at the moment. I really liked Maps to the Stars, tho not many people agreed with me

        Liked by 1 person

      • To be honest, I’m not Cronie’s biggest fan. I did really like his collaborations with Viggo though. Eastern Promises and A History of Violence were great but I’ve yet to see A Dangerous Method (the inclusion of Fassy being another major draw). I own Maps to the Stars as well but not watched it yet.

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      • A dangerous method is… very interesting. Viggo is unrecognisable, and Fassy is great too. Not the best movie but I’ve seen it a couple of times.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m very interested in Freudian and Jungian philosophy so I’m drawn to it for that alone. But having Viggo and Fassy together is a dream pair-up. I can’t abide Keira Knightley, though, but I’ll just have to suffer her, I suppose.

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      • Keira isn’t tooooo bad. Accent is perhaps a bit laughable but she isn’t terrible. Fassy and Viggo though are fucking awesome together, those two together was the reason I gave this a third watch recently. I’ve also been long interested in psychology and its origins, since I did psych in high school, though this movie conveniently skips over Freud’s insane cocaine use ;P

        Liked by 1 person

  3. No question, one of th4e year’s best. Your Wes Anderson comparison was really interesting. Can’t say I’d thought of that until you mentioned it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I definitely felt a Wes Anderson kinda vibe, Matt. Not quite as quirky as his stuff but it was there or thereabouts. Sorry for such a reply mate. Blog took a back seat for a while.

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  4. A really fun watch because it’s so arresting with terrific performances.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes! I’ve got to rent this and fast. I love Viggo and your high marks only want me to watch it right away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I reckon Captain Fantastic is worth the high marks, Cindy. I adore it. Such a treat and I’m a huge fan of Viggo too.

      Sorry for replying so late, I just put a halt on blogging for a while. Hoping to creep back in, though.

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      • We are all glad when you can work it into your schedule.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I rented it and watched it twice, it was that good.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cheers Cindy. I appreciate the support. To be honest, I took a break because my good lady ended up critically ill. It came very close to me empathising with Viggo’s character from the film.

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      • Oh, wow, Mark. I am so very sorry! My thoughts are with you and your family.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It was quite uncanny. I totally identified with Viggo’s character anyway. I like to live off-grid as much as possible; I share his political and religious views and I take a similar approach to educating my children. This film totally struck a chord when I seen it. Then… literally days after seeing it, my good lady ended up in a coma. I honestly couldn’t believe it. It was very close to the bone.

        That aside, she’s on the mend now and thankfully it never went the full road. Thanks for the good wishes, though, Cindy. Much appreciated. 🙂

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      • Jesus. I was afraid of what you were insuating. I’m grateful and glad your real life drama didn’t have the same ending as the film. Still, I’m sure the film will always be an emotional one. Your site has the byline “all the riddles of life can be found in the films” , something like that. Anyway, you prevail and so does your family. Cheers, mate! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cheers Cindy! “All of life’s riddles can be answered in the movies”. If they can’t, then they will, at the very least, give us guidance and an understanding that we’re not alone in our emotions, our struggles or our desires.

        Movies… It’s an art form that speaks very loudly to me. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s why we are here, yes? For that I’m glad. Imagine all of us, virtual buddies. We’ll never likely meet but we share a common emotional necessity. Pretty cool.
        Merry Christmas, Mark. I hope your family is coping well.

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      • Indeed, Cindy. A very merry Christmas to you and yours also. Hope it’s a good one. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, full marks, Mark? I’m marking this down as a must-see. (Couldn’t think of any other uses of the word ‘mark’)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love a good surprising indie. And with you giving it full marks, it must be something utterly impressive.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great review, as always! I really need to get to this, as it seems like such a good movie, and I have heard fantastic things about it. Hopefully soon!

    Liked by 1 person

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